It’s a fixture that could feature a number of players who have come up through the system to play in MLS. Ironically, the Red Bulls’ opponent has taken a near-identical approach to team-building and has found similar success. For two teams that rely on their academies, Saturday’s match can be used as a shining example for the rest of the league, with both sides displaying how their measured approach is bearing fruit.
The Red Bulls are slated to be without three starters and FC Dallas is set to have five players missing from the lineup, all due to international duty. The Red Bulls will likely feature at least four players in their starting lineup from their academy and FC Dallas could well boast a similar number. It’s a testament to how these two teams have grown increasingly reliant on homegrown, domestic players.
The investment in academy development is paying off for both sides, bigly.
Saturday’s quartet of likely starters from the Academy includes Connor Lade, Sean Davis, Alex Muyl and Tyler Adams. The bench will likely have three other graduates of the academy such as Arun Basuljevic, Dilly Duka and Derrick Etienne. There’s no denying the impact of these four players have had this year and graduates such as Lade have become mainstays within the organization.
Oscar Pareja in Dallas and Jesse Marsch in New York are two head coaches who are unafraid to try young players. Both coaches have been rewarded with silverware in the process.
“I’ve certainly had a lot of respect and what Oscar has done with that team over the last three years; I think we’ve been neck-and-neck with them in a lot of different categories. Over the last three years, those are the two best teams in the league. We’re both now a little bit further down the table than we’ve been in past seasons but I think both teams are capable of beating anyone and being very good on any given day,” Marsch said on Tuesday.
“It’s a day where we play each other where we’re both missing some players so we’ll have to call on some depth. They’ve done a really good job with young players, they’ve done a really good job with young players – so have we. In many ways, it will be a battle of two teams with similar philosophies and similar success rates in the past three years and now see who will gain an edge on the day.”
Since 2013, the Red Bulls have won two Supporters’ Shield titles for best regular season finishes in MLS. FC Dallas captured the Shield last season. The Red Bulls have also taken three of the last four Eastern Conference titles and are in the finals of the US Open Cup this year, testaments to the patience and persistence of building through their academy.
It wasn’t always this way.
Rewind to the 2010 season and the Red Bulls’ match against the Chicago Fire. The encounter featured six Designated Player signings between the two sides, a sign at the time that big-name players (and big salaries) had come to MLS. Matches like Saturday night won’t receive the same fanfare, but the fact that each team will likely have a good chunk of their respective Starting XI be players they developed through their system is equally as important.
While television ratings, attendance, merchandising and ticket sales are all driven by stars, the overall development of the league will come from the model of teams such as the Red Bulls and FC Dallas who are developing players. It will be players like an Adams, destined for Europe someday, that will do more for MLS than their big name counterparts.
The greater the success that Adams and players like him have in MLS as well as the international level, the better as a whole for the entire league.
RED BULLS NOTES
– With Michael Amir Murillo, Fidel Escobar and Kemar Lawrence away for international duty, the Red Bulls will be relying on their depth in Dallas. The good news is that the loss of those three backline players will be offset in part by the return to health of several players.
– Center back Damien Perrinelle and Lade both trained on Tuesday. Both should be ready for Dallas.
“Aurelien did not [train], he was on the side,” Marsch said. “Royer was running, one the side. Making progress with Royer. Aurelien is still feeling his plantar fasciitis.”
– Recently signed winger Muhamed Keita did not suit-up for the Red Bulls on Friday in a 1-1 result at Red Bull Arena against New York City FC. But the player is apparently making an impact and could be ready for a debut.
The team scrimmaged on Tuesday against their USL squad, playing two-25 minute halves. Marsch said that Keita, playing with the first team, scoring three goals.
– Red Bull Arena will host the finals of the Danone Nations Cup on September 24th. From 34,000 school programs and 11,000 club teams globally, the final teams will appear in a series of matches at the MLS side’s stadium, marking the first time in 18 years that the prestigious tournament will be held in the United States.
Former United States women’s national star Abby Wambach is the tournament’s ambassador this year. The tournament is held globally for children between the ages of 10 to 12 years old. In addition, this year’s Danone Nations Cup will feature a girls tournament for the first time.